As we are midway through the 2021 model year, it’s time to take a look at the most reliable 2021 full-size trucks, and, frankly, there are no real surprises here.
While we primarily based these rankings on predictive reliability from Consumer Reports, but we’re also looking at NHTSA.gov to see what owners are saying as well as checking out the number of recalls. In many cases, the number of recalls doesn’t play a role in the ranking because, well, they’ll get repaired for free — even if they are a bit of a hassle to deal with.
Curiously, we noticed that Consumer Reports in some cases gave higher overall scores to vehicles that don’t get great predictive reliability. Which is fascinating. But since we’re focusing on reliability here, we’re mostly ignoring the overall score and giving heavier weight to the predicted reliability scores.
While our reliable 2021 full-size-trucks list mostly falls in line with Consumer Reports, we did lower the ranking on one truck in particular (cough, Ram 1500) due to the number and severity of complaints found on the NHTSA website.
If you caught our story for the most reliable 2020 trucks, our methodology has changed because we’re focused solely on the 2021 models, but the top and bottom of the list is exactly the same – even if some of the ones in the middle are moving around a bit.
2021 Toyota Tundra
Number of recalls: 0
Biggest complaint: None (NHTSA logs no consumer complaints)
The Toyota Tundra is in its final year before a complete redesign comes along for 2022. So, it’s domination at the top of the dependability list should be no surprise. In addition to getting all the bugs worked out after 7 years of production, Toyota generally has a solid reputation for reliability. The clincher, however, is the fact the 2021 Tundra has ZERO consumer complaints on NHTSA, and Consumer Reports also logs no owner reliability issues.
If you do want to look back at 2020 for giggles, the only complaint Consumer Reports logs is about paint chipping. That’s it. So, yeah, this tops the reliability rankings for good reason.
2021 Nissan Titan
Number of recalls: 1
Biggest complaint: Reports of rear suspension issues (2)
The Nissan Titan is often an overlooked contender in the full-size truck segment, but it’s actually got a lot going for it – including reliability. This truck got a refresh for 2020, including a new 9-speed transmission and added horsepower. For 2021, it has a total of 5 consumer complaints on the NHTSA website and the only two that were the same concerned the suspension and the left rear leaf spring breaking. None of the complaints concerned the transmission, which is promising, since that’s the major new component here.
Consumer Reports logs no reliability trouble spots on the Titan – and we’re not sure if that’s because there truly are no complaints or no one who subscribes to Consumer Reports owns a Nissan Titan. With this lack of data, we have no idea why it gets a 2 out of 5 score for predictive reliability. There are no significant recalls or complaints to warrant this, and that’s why we bump it up on our list.
2021 Ford F-150
Number of recalls: 3
Biggest complaint: Reports of brake failure (3)
The Ford F-150 is the only all-new full-size truck for the 2021 model year, which means there’s a lot of new stuff with the potential to need tweaks. So far, this model year logs 3 recalls and a total of 17 complaints – the most worrisome and repeated complaint was about brake failure. Two complaints specifically state they pushed the brake pedal to the floor and had excessively long stopping distances.
While growing pains are to be expected for an all-new vehicle, I will point out the 2020 model – which, if it followed the Tundra method, should have been near perfect – had 7 recalls and 90 consumer complaints.
Consumer Reports has nothing significant to add to the reliability conversation because even though it gives it a low predictive reliability score, it doesn’t have any consumer data to back it up. It does, however, list power equipment and in-car electronics as potential trouble spots.
2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Number of recalls: 3
Biggest complaint: Engine loss of power (7)
I’m assuming that the Chevy Silverado gets more complaints than Sierra because it’s a higher-volume vehicle. So, it’s likely that some of the loss-of-power issues do trickle over to Sierra as well – but none of the Silverado owners have reported fire – which is one of the reasons Sierra ranks below Silverado – even though Silverado gets more complaints and more technical service bulletins (TSBs). Because fire.
There are at least 3 TSBs covering the loss-of-power issue, and they direct dealers to look at the engine harness for shorting as well as a broken engine valve spring.
As far as Consumer Reports is concerned, neither the Sierra nor Silverado have a good track record in terms of predictive reliability. The only year it shows as “better” is 2012, otherwise there’s a lot of red, yellow and orange dotting the overall reliability landscape. The two predictive reliability pain points are brakes and in-car electronics.
2021 GMC Sierra 1500
Number of recalls: 3
Biggest complaint: Engine fire (2)
I always find it weird that the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado don’t have exactly the same problems and complaints. While they do share the same recalls and Consumer Reports predicted reliability score (bottom of the heap), the complaints are different. Sure, both cover the engine (which isn’t in any of the recalls, by the way), but the Sierra’s problems involve fire.
There are at least two customers who reported vehicle engines catching fire – once after the vehicle was parked and once while the vehicle was at 60 MPH. There aren’t any NHTSA investigations open on the Sierra engine, and I didn’t see any TSBs specifically addressing fire concerns. So, maybe these were one-off situations.
Consumer Reports has no consumer data to share, but similar to Silverado, it pinpoints the biggest pain points centering around brakes and in-car electronics.
2021 Ram 1500
Number of recalls: 1
Biggest complaint: Engine stalling while vehicle in motion (20+)
And then we come to the Ram 1500. While it only has one somewhat minor recall for the rear camera, there are some serious engine complaints going on. Overall, NHTSA has logged 30 complaints on this truck, and more than 20 of them are about engine stalling.
There are 148 TSBs on this model year, and as far as I could tell from skimming the electrical system and engine bulletins, there’s nothing that addresses the stalling issues.
What’s particularly disappointing is this vehicle was all-new in 2019, so it’s had 3 model years to work out some of the more egregious bugs – yet there are more than 20 complaints on a single issue.
Curiously, though Consumer Reports gives the 1500 a predictive reliability score of 2 out of 5, it doesn’t wave any red flags in any of the 17 categories it rates.
Maybe this should be higher up in the rankings, but 20 complaints on the same issue just gives us serious pause – especially while engine stalling while in motion causes seriously increases the risk of a crash – unlike the rearview camera not working.
As we said in the 2020 article: The heart wants what the heart wants. So, if you’re a Ram guy, you aren’t going to give two hoots that the 1500 brings up the rear in terms of our reliability rankings.
But, if you’re new to the truck world and reliability is your primary concern, well, Tundra.
All that being said, you obviously need to buy the truck that best fits your needs in terms of capabilities and features – just go into the transaction with your eyes open.